Fact: your daughter or stepdaughter needs a healthy sense of sexuality in order to be a healthy and happy woman.
Open, positive conversations with mothers and fathers about sexuality give our daughters a better foundation from which to deal with some of the world’s ugly realities, like sexual assault and abuse. It’s much easier to balance the positive and the negative when we consistently paint the whole picture, and not focusing only on the perilous scenarios.
Still, if we’re going to be honest, we can’t leave our daughters unaware of sexual dangers. Just like we must master the “plumbing” diagrams, we need to understand the nasty pitfalls girls face if we hope to help our daughters make sense of them and know how to respond. Some of these realities are tough to look at.
To take one example, a SmartGirl.com online poll indicates that many girls are forced or pressured into sexual activity. “Out of 339 teen girls surveyed, 28% said they had been pushed into having sex or performing sexual acts against their will. In many cases girls are NOT talking about these devastating incidents to parents and caregivers who can offer much-needed help.
It may seem impossible to respond appropriately to these frightening realities. How can we talk about such awful things without scaring our daughters or reinforcing the impression that sexuality is dangerous and dishonest? The answer lies in simple, open conversation that trusts our daughters’ brains, instincts and savvy.
What our daughters need most in order to thrive in this uncertain world is the capacity to trust their own judgment, passions and dreams. Sometimes this calls for courage we never imagined we had -- and brings us unforeseen rewards, too.
My (white) daughter dated a Filipino hip-hop dancer who barely made it through high school but had talent. He traveled with bodyguards and the whole nine yards. The bodyguards were big, bad and mean except when they were in my house in the suburbs, and they came over a lot. Around here they were just good kids with kid thoughts and ideas. It was hard to allow them in. There was an underlying fear. But it soon faded. Around here they were just good kids with kid thoughts and ideas. They relaxed and they told me that they felt comfortable at my house. It was a great lesson for me. It took me three years to find the real boy in there. I actually found myself caring for her boyfriend a lot and I believe I taught him a thing or two. He had no father to lean on. So here it is seven years later and their relationship is over. No kids from it, nothing but an empty spot. I miss him. - Anthony
Anthony's daughter had her father’s trust, even when it was hard for him to give. She responded by acting responsibly in the romantic relationship – for example, she didn’t get pregnant. She saw her father embracing her friends (and her judgment in choosing them) -- at first with difficulty, but then with enthusiasm and affection. In addition, the father gained a new friend, someone he now misses, because he took the risk of recognizing that there was a “real boy in there.”
Read more about fathers, daughters, and sexuality in Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter.